Scotland Day 3/4: Edinburgh Part II

Aye j’ai finalement l’Internet!!!!

Sorry for the lack of updates lately… I owe you three posts now, and I’ll try to clear at least two of them fairly soon… Hopefully before the fourth one piles in but it’s unlikely…

So, Edinburgh Part II… It wasn’t as exciting as you might like to think, as I never really liked popular tourist attractions… However, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t full of hidden surprises!

Day 3 I walked to the beach with my host, and was very pleased to see such a tranquil sight…

It was much better than the cobbles at Worthing, and a huge relief for me because of the lack of stones… And it also reminds me of how small Britain is, as this bit of the coast was not that far away from Berwick-upon-Tweed!

I was getting a bit obsessed with trig points since Bloodybush Edge, and had always wanted to test the “on a clear day, one can see at least two other trig points if they stand at one themselves” theory. I realized that it is very difficult if I don’t know where the pillars are, but if I do, the theory stands strong even today! In the first picture, just behind those tree branches, you can see Arthur’s Seat and if the photo’s good enough, it’s trig point, too!

Also get: trig point BM S3006, Calton Hill, NT 262 742.

The view from the top is always the best, blah blah blah…

The next stop was one of Edinburgh’s Kirks. In there, lay a sacred Thomas Riddell and his son and daughter. They were supposed to be good people, though, unlike the Riddles in Little Hangleton… And Bewrick used to be a county…?!

The afternoon was spent in another of Edinburgh’s free museum – Museum of Edinburgh. I didn’t go there because it was free, of course… There was supposed to be a session called “growing up with poems and folk songs” which interested me greatly. The lady running the session turned out to be Scottish Canadian, and spent most of her life in northern Ontario! She did superbly recalling lullabies and songs from her school days. When she sang one of the Christian songs, my mind drifted to the well-known He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands, a tune converted by HMHB to mock the middle class… Took me a lot to ask her whether she’s heard of the original tune and make weird comments!

Then a family joined us. They had a son and a daughter, both about 11/12 years of age, and they were such a pair! I’d never seen kids their age being so raucous without being rude, yet they managed to do just that. Their mum joined in after one of the Girl Scout songs, while the dad refused to sit with us the entire time (we all heard him sing along with the other adults, of course). Interesting family dynamics…

I also showed Felton Lennon to the lady after the session, and, possibly due to the geographical proximity, she found the tune familiar. I also got to know much later that kyes is more Scottish than Geordie (who say “coo”, as demonstrated in Cushie Butterfield). But that was much later…

Back to the Elephant House, as I really loved the (writer-friendly) atmosphere, and all the elephants… Got a table this time, too, and the view did not disappoint!

Had to go to the washrooms before I go, and was greeted by a completely unexpected, but heartwarming scene…

People, millions and millions of HP fans, had splashed their hearts here in the washrooms, the world’s unspoken secret den for display of passion. People drew symbols and signs (how many Deathly Hallows signs are there anyways?), quoted from the books/movies, and wrote thank-you notes for Jo. It was as if HP is a religion and these washrooms are the most sacred worship place… And apparently it was also the official sign-up place for the DA, but I didn’t find it… Maybe in the men’s room?

“Dobby is a free elf”, and a block capital “ALOHOMORA”… I really don’t know what’s more fitting to these walls of graffiti!

And the news articles… The Elephant House had a wall full of them, and this one cracked me up the most… I’m not sure if they realized it, but the “defaced” washrooms actually bestow many a Potterhead – especially the nerdy ones like me – a sense of community. It is through anonymous messages like the above that we know we belong, that we know we aren’t the only “crazy” ones, that there are millions of people out there who feel HP saved/changed/shaped their lives, who believe they are better/braver/kinder people because of Harry, who thank JK for giving them hope/getting them to read/helping them understand this world of love and hate and prejudice and loyalty… Here’s a thought: instead of painting them away, why not give people the pens? Or maybe replace a wall with a blackboard and plenty of chalk, or a softwood bulletin board with post-its and actually encourage the practice of “bog words”? It would be much more heart grabbing for every diehard HP fan as it’ll truly turn this place into a place to call home!

I didn’t quite want to leave, but sticking my face on a washroom was probably not the best way to spend an afternoon, so I made a sensible decision and went back… Here’s a view of the stairwell from my host’s, who happens to live in the top floor of one of the traditional Edinburgh houses (need a name check). The general atmosphere was very similar to the old apartment buildings in Beijing…

Went to the Surgeon’s Hall on Day 4, and on my way there, I saw an Indigenuous (Canadian) shop. At first I thought it was one of those trade shops commonly seen on the streets of Victoria, but it turned out to be a weird coffee shop… With a white owner! And that board saying JK wrote some of HP in the cafe was for Spoon, the shop right upstairs… It was supposed to be owned by Jo’s brother-in-law, and that was partly why she went there for Philosopher’s Stone in the first place.

And that also made me question whether she was indeed “as poor as could be in modern Britain without being homeless”. Don’t get me wrong… It was very unlikely that she worked any regular hours, and I’m not denying the hardships of living on welfare/benefits or battling depression… Many of the HMHB songs (Nigel’s about the same age, from Merseyside) also featured the hardships in the 80s, and mentions of Giro/social security programs and accompanying stress/desperation/mental distortions are numerous. It’s more like a realization that she had her family who was willing to help, which was so much more than many other poor people had. Her sister’s family may not be able to take Jo and her daughter in, but they were there, with plenty of free coffee and possibly bags of groceries in the more desperate days… How many people living under poverty are able to access a family/person who actually care about them and are able to spare a few sandwiches when there’s no food in the house?

Surgeon’s Hall was not far from these two coffee shops, and was quite satisfying for my inner nerd. Their pathology section was an absolute treasure, displaying specimen of all sorts of diseases. I half-wished they also had a histology exhibition but that wouldn’t be surgery, would it?

Lunch was a nice switch from the bleak English pub food to some tropical, Italian cuisine. It was a bit out of my budget but overall worth the money… They make a mad garlic bread!

With one of the free HP tours, I was back in the Kirk… The guide confirmed my suspicion, but it wasn’t hard to see from the beginning that kirk=church… I mean, even in present-day English, some “ch”s sound like “k” (chromosome), and the ir-ur merger had been going on for a few centuries… So maybe it started with chirch (pronounced as kirk), and some English idiot thought it was more proper to write/pronounce it as church, all the while the northerners/borderers/Scots decided they’d simply change the spelling to match the actual sound?

The tour ended with the “Diagonal Alley”. It was a lot of fun and quite informative. We got to see the tunnel which inspired the Dudley Demented scene, and was told of the stories behind Harry’s name. We were also told that Jo’s brother-in law owned the spoon, where Jo spent writing the first book… (Insert the wonderins)

And… To justify more washroom time, I headed to the Elephant House again, ordered a pot of their Earl Grey (best I’ve had yet), and carried on with my inspection…


And of course not without leaving my own mark! I actually had to search my brain for a quote because many of my favourite quotes were already on the wall!

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